Stress in small doses is a normal part of life but it becomes a problem when it starts to dominate our lives and becomes chronic. Stress occurs when things are out of your control, during times of change and uncertainty such as exam stress, bereavement, relationship breakdowns or simply taking on too much, which I am certainly guilty of!
Symptoms of stress include
- inability to think,
- worry, anxiety,
- changeable bowel habits,
- teeth grinding,
- sugar cravings,
- increased consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
All these factors affect our nervous system causing our sympathetic nervous system to ramp up with the release of cortisol and adrenaline which are there to help us fight or runaway when in physical danger. The problem in modern society that the stresses we are under are not usually physical but emotional so the effect of the hormones is to stimulate the heart, raise blood pressure but decrease stimulation to other organs such as the digestive system. This is a normal response but problems occur when the stress becomes chronic and these hormones are continually released.
Long term stress can lead to:
- Chronic pain and muscle tightness
- Adrenal fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Cardiovascular disease – High blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes
- Panic attacks
- Hormonal problems- e.g.irregular periods, thyroid disorders, infertility
- Lowered sex drive
There are many factors that play into our stress levels and dealing with these is sometimes easier said than done but you can start to make small changes such as improving your diet and avoiding caffeine which will help to make you feel better. Exercise is also an important tool to decrease stress, it does not have to be anything strenuous, a walk in the countryside
can help our well being. Small factors of self care all start to build up gradually to reduce our stress levels.
Qi Gong is also a wonderful practise to help with stress reduction. It is a gentle form of meditative exercise which can be used by almost everyone. There are many instructional videos on YouTube but I especially like this teacher
Acupuncture can play an important role in stress reduction as the insertion of the small, thin needles into specific points on the body can help to:
- Balance hormones
- Stimulate the production of serotonin and endorphins ( happy hormones)
- Activate the parasympathetic nervous system to relax you
- Reduce inflammation and pain
- Release muscle tension